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Open water

Hi all,

Been swimming 5 months.

Concentration g on front crawl,bi-lateral breathing,stroke.

Did my first lake swim.

Bit of a shock really.

Couldn't breathe properly,getting head to stay down difficult.

Did 800 metres with head above water,did try several times.

Guess I panicked,not the best start.water murkey.

Been reading blogs,

Made loads of mistakes.

Didn't warm up properly.

Acclimatise my self.

Is there any advice anyone could give.

Greatly appreciated.




  • rob chalmersrob chalmers Posts: 113

    a couple of Face-down torpedo kick drills normally help me acclimatise, that and shutting my eyes so I don't see the lake zombies. 

  • michael0michael0 Posts: 4


    will go back to the lake this weekend.

    Have another go.


  • Lisa GLisa G Posts: 29

    Does the lake where you swim offer any coaching or introduction to open water swimming?  Yorkshire Open Water Swimming and SwimYourSwim offer an iTOW course which is really good and gets you used to swimming in open water.

  • michael0michael0 Posts: 4

    I will talk to the people who run the lake.

    Thanks very much 


  • BoothyBoothy Posts: 6

    I did a lot of open water swimming last year, been in the pool all winter. Did an open water 2 weeks ago and I was rubbish! Couldn't do more than about 50m without having to come up.

    I did another open water last week and did about 850m. I didn't do anything different, I think it was just literally settling into it again.

    The first time I wasn't nervous or anything getting in, I just literally think it's practice. Spend a long time in there, even if it isn't doing front crawl at first and get comfortable. You might not feel like you are panicking, or uncomfortable, but in reality your breathing is being affected and swimming is all about being comfortable.

    Stick at it, it'll come.

  • I'd get some water inside your wetsuit to warm you up as soon as you're in the water. This seems to relax me. Also, if you start off with some long stretched out strokes with very slow accentuated head turns , so you see your surrounds, this is calming. I tried to swim like I was in the pool, and the lack of vision, temperature and wetsuit combine to work you right up, so don't be hard on yourself, it's a common reaction, but quickly overcome if you let yourself slow everything down and try to enjoy the surroundings.
  • RichgRichg Posts: 5
    michael0 similar thing happened to me last Thursday....... Months and months of pool training and first time in open water heart rate goes sky high, breathing out of sync and only managed 1 lap of a 600m course with loads of stops. Went back on Saturday and before I started the swim I found a quiet area in lake, let a bit of water into my suit then just held my head under water a few times just and practiced my breathing (this actually relaxed me quite a bit) once happy I swam out really slowly to the course. Then a strange thing happened..... I caught sight of the white rope that holds the marker boys about 2m below me. Following this rope really helped as I wasn't concerned about going off course but gradually started to lift my head to spot as my confidence grew. Also I slowed my stroke right down and concentrated on gliding a bit more than usual and made a conscious effort to almost look back at the sky when I took a breath instead of just about getting my mouth out of the water like in the pool. I managed 2 full laps quite easily without stopping on Saturday and could have quite happily done a couple more if it wasn't for running out of time. As above, stick at it it can only get better! Good luck!
  • SkettySketty Posts: 24

    I remember the same sensations, bar one all of the tri's ive done have been in the sea. It really was a case of mind over matter for me, after the first two disastrous cold sea swims the penny eventually started to drop....it really is a mental challenge as well as physical. While you are in the water just keep telling yourself over and over that you have a job to do and to get your head down and get on with it, concentrate on your stroke and breathing and exclude any negative thoughts. The more you practice (open water) the easier it becomes. Now I prefer the sea to pool swimming and look forward to the summer months for this reason, luckily I'm only 10 mins from the sea although a little further to prime swimming beaches.

    On race day I always try and have 10 minute dip before the last race briefing, some will argue against this as you can get cold but have a friend or family member to hold a nice warm coat for you after you get out. I do this as I like to get the cold head shock out of the way before the race starts. If you can't get in in advance make sure you are one of the first in the water so you have a few mins to sort your head out.

    Also, do not start in the centre of the swimming pack, I sometimes still make this mistake and end up getting battered or held up by slower swimmers. Give any turn buoys a wide berth, do not aim for them, it will be so congested close to the buoy that you won't be able to maintain your stroke. Going wide won't take any longer as you will be moving more quickly than those crashing into each other and breaking their rhythm and it will keep your stress levels down.

    Good luck.

  • Firstly, breathing on both sides, also known as bilateral breathing, is a must. The flow of oxygen in your body is really important for swimming in general and extra important when doing so in open water.

    Don`t run for long distance, start small.

    Use proper wetsuit.

    Wear 2 caps to keep head warm in cold water

    Find a coach who knows the lake

    There is a good article about open water swimming for beginners 


  • Evans PEvans P Posts: 10

    I was shocked at how bad my first ow swim went and thought "i can't do this...". You just have to preserver and it will get a lot easier. 

    Things I do to help are:

    Try to be one of the first into the water before a race to give yourself as much time to acclimatise to the cold.

    Let a little bit of water into the wetsuit by pulling on the collar.

    Keep putting your head under water and blow out through your nose/mouth (try and do this for 3 secs)

    If the race starts and you still can't regulate your breathing, try doing breaststroke to start with and gradually put your head in further for longer until you are comfortable.

    Practice, practice & practice.

    Hope this helps,


  • I have my first open water triathlon this weekend: Swanage Bay. I havent done nearly enough open water training so thanks for all the tips above!!

  • Bilateral breathing is irrelevant... concentrate on any breathing! A number of pro's only breathe to one side in races. Go with what comes naturally - having the option to do so is great but don't get caught up in the idea of HAVING to do it.

    Regarding the actual problem, I was the same when I started in lakes, bizarrely I found that I wasn't breathing out! A coach suggested that I spend some time just floating on my front with my face in the water, acclimatising. There are a lot of factors that I put it down to, a tight and constrictive wetsuit, pressure from the cold water all makes an unfamiliar feeling around your chest.

    The only real way I've found is just practice - get in the lake, find a quiet spot and practice with your head in the water for 5/10 minutes until you feel 'ok'. Then do some gentle swimming around. When you feel more comfortable drop in to the main pack and see how you feel. I certainly wouldn't advocate jumping straight into a melee of people and getting bashed about - I don't enjoy that now!!!

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